Commentary on Galatians chapter 3

Compiled by Eric Johnson

Highlighted parts are key quotes that may have been used on the radio shows

5 questions for chapter 3 (to answer before you study chapter 3)

  1. In verse 2, Paul reminds the Galatians about their original faith, and he says that it didn’t come by completing the works of the law in order to get forgiveness of sins. As the refrain for “At the Cross” goes,

At the cross, at the cross where I first saw the light,
And the burden of my heart rolled away,
It was there by faith I received my sight,
And now I am happy all the day!

What are some things that can cause us to lose focus in our Christian walk with God? What would your advice be to someone who is getting sidetracked and wants to get back to serving God?

2. Paul says in verse 7 that you don’t have to be Jewish in order to be called a “son of Abraham.” In verse 8 he says that these sons of Abraham will be blessed. What are some of the blessings associated with others of this privilege?

3. In this chapter, Paul likens those followers of the law with prisoners. What are some of the consequences prisoners face? How does that relate to being imprisoned by the law?

4. Verse 28 says that “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” In other words, our nationality, religious upbringing, employment situation, or sex does not make a difference when it comes to having the ability to have a relationship with God. What are the benefits to those who take this offer of grace seriously and desire to be “one in Christ Jesus”?

5.  Concerning the role of works, Reformer Martin Luther once said, “Indeed, works do follow after faith, but faith is not therefore a meritorious work. Faith is a gift. The character and limitations of the Law must be rigidly maintained.” Why is it important that faith and works be separated when the issue of “justification” is being considered?

Commentary

Highlighted parts are key quotes that may have been used on the radio shows

Galatians 3: By Faith, or by Works of the Law?

O foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you? It was before your eyes that Jesus Christ was publicly portrayed as crucified. 2 Let me ask you only this: Did you receive the Spirit by works of the law or by hearing with faith?

Eric’s Commentary: I don’t do much marriage counseling, but if I did, my first question to the couple would be to go back to the time when they first fell in love. “What is it that made you first fall in love with her/him?” I would ask. Unfortunately, we tend to be myopic, especially when we are going through difficult times, and we forget about the girl we first took to the dance. In the same way, Christians can easily lose focus about their first faith, when everything seemed so simple. Here Paul is reminding them to go back in time and show them that they did not received justification through their good works–they had none!–but only through God’s working in them.

The NIV Study Bible: foolish. They were not mentally deficient but simply failed to use their powers of perception. Who… ? Obviously legalistic Judaizers.

1 Corinthians 1:22-25: For Jews demand signs and Greeks seek wisdom,but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles, but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. For the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men.”

1 Corinthians 2:2:  For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified.”

Paul uses the Holy Spirit 16x in the rest of the epistle, starting with verse 2.

 

3 Are you so foolish? Having begun by the Spirit, are you now being perfected by the flesh?

Eric’s commentary: If you weren’t able to come unto Christ in the state of being you were in when you were saved, what makes you think you’re good enough now?

The NIV Study Bible: “beginning with the Spirit. . . .attain your goal. Both salvation and sanctification are the work of the Holy Spirit. Human effort. Lit. ‘the flesh,’ a reference to human nature in its unregenerate weakness. Trying to achieve righteousness by works, including circumcision, was a part of life in the ‘flesh.’”

Moo: “The agitators were apparently insisting that becoming a ‘son’ of Abraham and attaining ultimate righteousness with God were based on faith + torah observance. It is this synergism with respect to righteousness that Paul denies. The concern that Paul expresses in this verse reaches to the rhetorical heart of Galatians. The Galatian Christians have started well; they have received the Spirit and have been justified by their faith in Christ, a gift of God’s grace. But the agitators have come on the scene, arguing that people can go free in the judgment only if they add to their faith the ‘works of the law.’ Paul seeks to persuade the Galatians not to buy into this scheme: as they began, with the Spirit and with faith, so they must continue” (185).

 

4 Did you suffer so many things in vain—if indeed it was in vain? 5 Does he who supplies the Spirit to you and works miracles among you do so by works of the law, or by hearing with faith— 6 just as Abraham “believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness”?

Genesis 15:6: “(Abraham)  believed the Lord, and he counted it to him as righteousness.”

Keller: In verse 5, Paul is even stronger. He moves into the present tense and says that right now the works of the Spirit—even miracles—occur ‘because you believe’ (not ‘because you believed’) and because you no longer ‘observe the law.’ The Spirit works as Christians don’t rely on their own works, but rather consciously and continuously rest in Christ alone for their acceptability and completeness. Paul links the Spirit and the gospel in the most inseparable terms. The Spirit works as you apply and use the gospel” (68).

“We will see as we progress through Galatians that our failure to obey and conform to Christ’s character is not a matter of simple lack of will-power, and so we cannot treat our failures simply by ‘trying harder.’ After all, resolving to ‘try harder’ is resolving to rely on our own efforts to keep a law. We need instead to realize that the root of all our disobedience is particular ways in which we continue to seek control of our lives through systems of works-righteousness” (68-69).

“Here, Paul is calling Abraham as a witness for his case. Consider Abraham, he says to these Gentile Christians, because the ancestor of the Jews will show you that you really have been ‘bewitched’ (v. 1) by these Judaizing teachers. Why? Because when we look at Abraham, we see a man who ‘believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness’ (v. 6). What is most important about Abraham is that he was a ‘man of faith’ (v. 9). Paul is saying: The father-founder of the Jewish people would agree with me” (71).

“Many commentators have resisted the remarkable implications of Genesis 15:6, and argued that we are being told that Abram’s faith is itself a form of righteousness that pleases God; that his faith was an act of obedience that merited God’s favor, a kind of righteousness. But the text doesn’t say that his faith was righteousness; rather it was counted as (i.e.: as it were) righteousness. . . . When God ‘credits righteousness,’ He is conferring a legal status on someone. He treats them as actually righteous and free from condemnation, even though they are still actually unrighteous in their heart and behavior. They are ‘justified.’ This flied in the face of all traditional religion, which tells us that either we are living righteously and are therefore pleasing and acceptable to God, or we are living unrighteously and are therefore alienated from God. But Paul (and Abraham) are showing that it is possible to be loved and accepted by God while we are ourselves sinful and imperfect. Martin Luther’s famous phrase is that Christians are simul jestus et peccator—simultaneously righteous and sinful’” (72).

“The justified status is not given to them because they have gotten their hearts into a certain level of submission and worship. You don’t clean up your life in order to earn credited righteousness. Rather, you receive it even while you are a sinner” (73).

“Notice that it does not say that Abraham believed in God (though he certainly did!). Believing in God is not saving faith (James 2:19 says that even ‘the demons believe’). Rather, he had to believe and trust what God actually said in His promise to save” (73).

 

7 Know then that it is those of faith who are the sons of Abraham.

The NIV Study Bible: “children of Abraham. Abraham was the physical and spiritual father of the Jewish race. Here all believers (Jews and Gentiles) are called his spiritual children. They are also referred to as the ‘seed’ or ‘descendants’ of Abraham.”

Keller: “What matters is not physical descent from Abraham (being Jewish), but spiritual descent (having the same faith as he did)” (73)

Martin Luther: “Paul is saying: ‘You know from the example of Abraham and from the plain testimony of the Scriptures that they are the children of Abraham, who have faith in Christ, regardless of their nationality, regardless of the Law, regardless of works, regardless of their parentage. The promise was made unto Abraham, ‘Thou shalt be a father of many nations’; again, ‘And in thee shall all families of the earth be blessed.’ To prevent the Jews from misinterpreting the word ‘nations,’ the Scriptures are careful to say ‘many nations.’ The true children of Abraham are the believers in Christ from all nations.”

 

8 And the Scripture, foreseeing that God would justify  the Gentiles by faith, preached the gospel beforehand to Abraham, saying, “In you shall all the nations be blessed.” 9 So then, those who are of faith are blessed along with Abraham, the man of faith.

Martin Luther: “The Scriptures ascribe no righteousness to Abraham except through faith. The Scriptures speak of Abraham as he stands before God, a man justified by faith. Because of his faith God extends to him the promise: ‘In thee shall all nations be blessed.’”

 

The Righteous Shall Live by Faith

10 For all who rely on works of the law are under a curse; for it is written, “Cursed be everyone who does not abide by all things written in the Book of the Law, and do them.”

Eric’s Commentary: If you know what you’re supposed to do, and yet you fail to do those things, you are judged guilty and deserve the consequences. If I know I’m supposed to throw out the trash and I don’t do it, I deserve the glaring look of disapproval from my wife. But someone will say, “That’s different because you could have thrown out the trash, but it’s impossible to keep all of the commandments given to us.” And I will respond, “Indeed, you are correct.” If we were left with only the law and an understanding that this needs to be kept, we have no hope. But, if we realize that someone is able to perfectly fulfill the law. In fact, it’s possible for me to have this person take my place and vouch for me even though I fall short of the requirement. Wow, what a Savior! And indeed, wow, what a Savior the Christian has by trusting Jesus and not himself!

Deut. 27:26: “‘Cursed be anyone who does not confirm the words of this law by doing them.’ And all the people shall say, ‘Amen.’”

The NIV Study Bible: rely on observing the law. The reference is to legalists—those who refuse God’s offer of grace and insist on pursuing righteousness through works. Under a curse. Because no one under the law ever perfectly kept the law. God’s blessing has never been earned, but has always been freely given.”

Moo: Syllogism:

  • Only those who do everything written in the law will escape the curse (v. 10b).
  • No one can do everything written in the law (assumed, as in v. 11).
  • Therefore: No one who depends on doing the law will escape the curse (v. 10a).

Keller: “Everyone who is seeking to save themselves by their own performance will experience a curse subjectively. At the very least, attempting to be saved by works will lead to profound anxiety and insecurity, because you can never be sure that you are living up to your standards sufficiently, whatever they may be. This makes you over-sensitive to criticism, envious and intimidated by others who outshine you. It makes you nervous and timid (because you are unsure of where you stand) or else swaggering and boastful (because you are trying to convince yourself of where you stand). Either way you live with a sense of curse and condemnation” (75).

Martin Luther: “We must bear in mind that to do the works of the Law does not mean only to live up to the superficial requirements of the Law, but to obey the spirit of the Law to perfection. But where will you find the person who can do that? Let him step forward and we will praise him.”

 

11 Now it is evident that no one is justified before God by the law, for “The righteous shall live by faith.”  12 But the law is not of faith, rather “The one who does them shall live by them.”

Eric’s commentary: Paul is very clear in this chapter that it’s impossible to please God by doing enough good. It can only be done through faith provided by grace.

Habakkuk 2:4: “Behold, his soul is puffed up; it is not upright within him, but the righteous shall live by his faith.”

Leviticus 18:5: “You shall therefore keep my statutes and my rules; if a person does them, he shall live by them: I am the Lord.”

Moo: “Verse 11b quotes Hab. 2:4 to show that it is ‘by faith’ that a person finds life/justification; verse 12 completes the argument by showing that the law is not ‘of faith.’ The ‘but’ develops the argument by adding a contrasting point: ‘a person finds life by faith, but the law is not ‘of faith’” (207).

“Does Paul claim that the OT teaches two different ways of salvation? Almost certainly not. Rather, he may view Lev. 18:5 as a summary of the particular ‘covenant life’ promised to Israel, while Ha. 2:4 states the overall OT teaching about finding true life with God. Or he may think that Lev. 18:5 is a valid promise of true life with God, which because of human sin, however, can never come to pass” (209).

Martin Luther: “Indeed, works do follow after faith, but faith is not therefore a meritorious work. Faith is a gift. The character and limitations of the Law must be rigidly maintained.”

 

13 Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us—for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who is hanged on a tree”— 14 so that in Christ Jesus the blessing of Abraham might come to the Gentiles, so that we might receive the promised Spirit through faith.

Deut. 21:23: “His body shall not remain all night on the tree, but you shall bury him the same day, for a hanged man is cursed by God. You shall not defile your land that the Lord your God is giving you for an inheritance.”

2 Corinthians 5:21: For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.”

Keller: “Jesus was our substitute. He received the curse we earned (v. 13) so that we might receive the blessing He earned (v. 14). Our sins and curse are given, or imputed, to Him: His righteousness and blessing and Spirit are imputed to us. It is a two-fold imputation” (75).

“Legally speaking, He became sin.  Why is that so important to realize? Because it shows the stunning claim regarding what happens to us when we believe. If Jesus ‘became’ a sinner for us, then we have ‘become’ righteous in the same way. If His taking the curse means that He was regarded by God as a sinner, then our receiving the blessing means that we are regarded by God as if we are perfectly righteous and flawless” (75-76).

 

The Law and the Promise

15 To give a human example, brothers: even with a man-made covenant, no one annuls it or adds to it once it has been ratified. 16 Now the promises were made to Abraham and to his offspring. It does not say, “And to offsprings,” referring to many, but referring to one, “And to your offspring,” who is Christ.

The NIV Study Bible:human covenant. The Greek word normally indicates a last will or testament, which is probably the legal instrument Paul is referring to here. But in the Septuagint (the Greek translation of the OT), it had been widely used of God’s covenant with his people (see also Mt. 26:28; Lk 1:72; Acts 3:25; 7:8; 2 Cor 3:14; Heb. 8:9), so Paul’s’ choice of analogy was apt for his purpose.”

Genesis 17:1-8: When Abram was ninety-nine years old the Lord appeared to Abram and said to him, “I am God Almighty; walk before me, and be blameless, that I may make my covenant between me and you, and may multiply you greatly.” Then Abram fell on his face. And God said to him, “Behold, my covenant is with you, and you shall be the father of a multitude of nations. No longer shall your name be called Abram, but your name shall be Abraham, for I have made you the father of a multitude of nations. I will make you exceedingly fruitful, and I will make you into nations, and kings shall come from you. And I will establish my covenant between me and you and your offspring after you throughout their generations for an everlasting covenant, to be God to you and to your offspring after you. And I will give to you and to your offspring after you the land of your sojournings, all the land of Canaan, for an everlasting possession, and I will be their God.”

Bruce: Referring to “no one annuls it”: “When a deed of settlement is properly signed, sealed, and delivered and the property legally conveyed, not even the original owner can revoke it or alter its terms” (170),

Keller: “…once a will is duly and legally made, we consider it binding no matter what changes in conditions may occur. So it is with God’s promises” (p. 78).

 

17 This is what I mean: the law, which came 430 years afterward, does not annul a covenant previously ratified by God, so as to make the promise void. 18 For if the inheritance comes by the law, it no longer comes by promise; but God gave it to Abraham by a promise.

Romans 4:4-5: “Now to the one who works, his wages are not counted as a gift but as his due. And to the one who does not work but believes in him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is counted as righteousness.”

Romans 11:6: “But if it is by grace, it is no longer on the basis of works; otherwise grace would no longer be grace.”

Moo: “In this verse (18) Paul introduces a concept that will be important in his subsequent argument: ‘inheritance.’ Paul may have been influenced by the reference to a ‘will’ in verse 15 to introduce this word into his argument at this point. God’s promise covenant with Abraham, he suggests, also involves the promise of an inheritance. In the OT, the ‘inheritance’ is usually identified with the land (e.g., Gen. 28:4; Deut. 1:39); for Paul (and other NT authors), the ‘inheritance’ is Christ himself and all the blessings Christ provides his people” (231).

“As Paul has explained in Gal. 3:12, ‘law’ operates according to the principle of doing: it demands works. And as Paul makes clear elsewhere, grace and works are antithetical. In fact, Paul’s logic in this verse is very similar to his logic in Rom. 4:4-5, where he argues that Abraham could not have been justified by works because, if he had, his status before God would not be based on grace. Explicit in his argument there and implicit here is the fact that God always operates with his sinful creatures on the basis of grace ” (231-232).

Keller: “Paul knows that some might see that Moses’ law was ‘introduced 430 years later’ than God’s promises of salvation to Abraham and conclude: Ah! This changes things! If we are to get the blessing of Abraham, we will not have to obey the law of Moses. But Paul says, and shows, that this is a false conclusion. The law of Moses cannot turn God’s promise to Abraham in to something other than what it is—a promise” (79).

“The principle is that the very concepts of ‘promise’ and ‘law’ are mutually exclusive. If I give you something because of what I have promised, it is not because of your performance. If I give you something because of what you have done, it is not because of my promise. Paul is adamant: either something comes by grace or works; either it comes because of the giver’s promise or the receiver’s performance. It is either one or the other” (78-79).

John Calvin: “Let us carefully remember the reason why, in comparing the promise with the law, the establishment of the one overturns the other. The reason is, that the promise has respect to faith, and the law to works. Faith receives what is freely given, but to works a reward is paid. And he immediately adds, God gave it to Abraham, not by requiring some sort of compensation on his part, but by the free promise; for if you view it as conditional, the word gave would be utterly inapplicable.”

Martin Luther: “The wide divergence in the time between the promise (given to Abraham) and the Law helps to clinch Paul’s argument that righteousness is not obtained by the Law. Let me illustrate. A man of great wealth adopts a strange lad for his son. Remember, he does not owe the lad anything. In due time he appoints the lad heir to his entire fortune. Several years later the old man asks the lad to do something for him. And the young lad does it. Can the lad then go around and say that he deserved the inheritance by his obedience to the old man’s request? How can anybody say that righteousness is obtained by obedience to the Law when the Law was given four hundred and thirty years after God’s promise of the blessing?”

 

19 Why then the law? It was added because of transgressions, until the offspring should come to whom the promise had been made, and it was put in place through angels by an intermediary. 20 Now an intermediary implies more than one, but God is one.

The NIV Study Bible: was added. From the time of Abraham, the promise covenanted to him (Ge 12:2-3:7; 15:18-20; 17:4-8) had stood at the center of God’s relationship with his people. After the exodus the law contained in the Sinaitic covenant (Ex 19-24) became an additional element in that relationship—what Jeremiah by implication called the ‘old covenant’ when he brought God’s promise of a ‘new covenant’ (Jer. 31:3-34). The Seed. Christ.”

The NIV Study Bible: “The Mosaic covenant was a formal arrangement of mutual commitments between God and Israel, with Moses as the mediator. But since the promise God covenanted with Abraham involved commitment only from God’s side (and God is one; see Deut 6:4), no mediator was involved.”

Martin Luther: “People foolish but wise in their conceits jump to the conclusion: If the Law does not justify, it is good for nothing. How about that? Because money does not justify, would you say that money is good for nothing? Because the eyes do not justify, would you have them taken out? Because the Law does not justify it does not follow that the Law is without value. We must find and define the proper purpose of the Law. We do not offhand condemn the Law because we say it does not justify.”

“The Law is the hammer of death, the thunder of hell, and the lightning of God’s wrath to bring down the proud and shameless hypocrites. When the Law was instituted on Mount Sinai it was accomplished by lightning, by storms, by the sound of trumpets, to tear to pieces that monster called self-righteousness. As long as a person thinks he is right he is going to be incomprehensibly proud and presumptuous. He is going to hate God, despise His grace and mercy, and ignore the promises in Christ. The Gospel of the free forgiveness of sins through Christ will never appeal to the self-righteous.”

“When the Law drives you to the point of despair, let it drive you a little farther, let it drive you straight into the arms of Jesus who says: ‘Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.’”

“The Law is a mirror to show a person what he is like, a sinner who is guilty of death, and worthy of everlasting punishment. What is this bruising and beating by the hand of the Law to accomplish? This, that we may find the way to grace. The Law is an usher to lead the way to grace.”

“Man’s folly, however, is so prodigious that instead of embracing the message of grace with its guarantee of the forgiveness of sin for Christ’s sake, man finds himself more laws to satisfy his conscience. ‘If I live,’ says he, ‘I will mend my life. I will do this, I will do that.’ Man, if you don’t do the very opposite, if you don’t send Moses with the Law back to Mount Sinai and take the hand of Christ, pierced for your sins, you will never be saved. When the Law drives you to the point of despair, let it drive you a little farther, let it drive you straight into the arms of Jesus who says: ‘Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.’”

 

21 Is the law then contrary to the promises of God? Certainly not! For if a law had been given that could give life, then righteousness would indeed be by the law.

The NIV Study Bible: “The reason the law is not opposed to the promise is that, although in itself it cannot save, it serves to reveal sin, which alienates God from man, and to show the need for the salvation that the promise offers.”

Paul’s argument:

  • Christ did not die in vain (2:21c).
  • Therefore righteousness does not come by the law (2:21b)
  • And since righteousness does not come by the law (3:21d), no law that can make alive has ever been given (3:21c).

Moo: “…the answer that Paul implies in Galatians and makes explicit in Romans (1:18-3:20) is that no person is able to meet the demands of the law. The life that the law promises, a common Jewish teaching that Paul endorses, is inevitably frustrated by the debilitating reality of human sinfulness. Only through the promise arrangement that God entered into with Abraham and that requires faith in response can righteousness/eschatological life be found” (238-239).

Keller: “The misreading that Paul is correcting is that God promised to bless His people, but that this blessing was achieved or kept by law-obedience. . . . Paul is establishing that an offer which begins by grace, as a free promise, must continue to be made on the same basis—or stop being a promise. As soon as it becomes based on performance, it can no longer be a free gift. This was no less true of the Galatians’ acceptability before God than it was of ancient Israel’s” (80-81).

“This is the purpose of the law. It shows us that we do not just ‘fall short’ of God’s will, requiring some extra effort to do better, but that we are completely under sin’s power, requiring a rescue. . . . Ironically, if we think we can be righteous by the law, we have missed the main point of the law” (83)

 

22 But the Scripture imprisoned everything under sin, so that the promise by faith in Jesus Christ might be given to those who believe. 

John Calvin: “This sentence is full of the highest consolation. It tells us that, wherever we hear ourselves condemned in Scripture, there is help provided for us in Christ, if we betake ourselves to him. We are lost, though God were silent: why then does he so often pronounce that we are lost? It is that we may not perish by everlasting destruction, but, struck and confounded by such a dreadful sentence, may by faith seek Christ, through whom we ‘pass from death unto life’” (240).

 

23 Now before faith came, we were held captive under the law, imprisoned until the coming faith would be revealed.

The NIV Study Bible: this faith. In Christ (v. 22). Held captive under the law. To be a prisoner of sin (v. 22) and a prisoner of law amount to much the same, because law reveals and stimulates sin (see 4:3; Rom 7:8; Col. 2:20).”

Keller: “First the law is a guard. The Greek words for ‘held captive” and ‘locked up” mean to be protected by military guards” (83)

Martin Luther: “How anybody can say that he by nature loves the Law is beyond me. The Law is a prison to be feared and hated. Any unconverted person who says he loves the Law is a liar. He does not know what he is talking about. We love the Law about as well as a murderer loves his gloomy cell, his straight-jacket, and the iron bars in front of him. How then can the Law justify us?”

“There are three ways in which the Law may be abused. First, by the self-righteous hypocrites who fancy that they can be justified by the Law. Secondly, by those who claim that Christian liberty exempts a Christian from the observance of the Law. ‘These,’ says Peter, ‘use their liberty for a cloak of maliciousness,’ and bring the name and the Gospel of Christ into ill repute. Thirdly, the Law is abused by those who do not understand that the Law is meant to drive us to Christ. When the Law is properly used its value cannot be too highly appraised. It will take me to Christ every time.”

 

24 So then, the law was our guardian until Christ came, in order that we might be justified by faith.

The NIV Study Bible: “was put in charge. The expression translates the Greek paidagogos. It refers to the personal slave-attendant who accompanied a freeborn by wherever he went and exercised a certain amount of discipline over him. His function was more like that of a baby-sitter than a teacher (see 1 Co 4:14, ‘guardians’).”

Moo: This person (almost always a male, usually a slave) had the responsibility of caring for the young children, seeing that they did their chores, got back and forth to school safely, and so forth. They were not teachers and were sometimes noted for the harsh discipline that was considered indispensable for raising children well. . . . the imagery would naturally convey the two ideas of supervisory role and temporal limits” (243).

Keller: “In the homes of Paul’s day, the tutor or guardian was usually a slave who supervised the children on the parents’ behalf” (83).

“So Paul describes all non-gospel-based religion as being characterized by:

  1. A sense of bondage
  2. An impersonal relationship with the divine, motivated by a desire for rewards and a fear of punishments
  3. Anxiety about one’s standing with God” (84)

 

25 But now that faith has come, we are no longer under a guardian, 26 for in Christ Jesus you are all sons of God, through faith.

Moo: “To claim that all believers—and especially, of course, Gentile believers such as the Galatians—are ‘sons of God’ is to claim that they enjoy the full status of God’s people. The Gentiles enjoy this status, Paul emphasizes, ‘through faith’” (250).

Keller: “We already are sons. It is not something we are aiming at; it is not a future attainment. It is something that we have already, in our present state. But this sonship is not a universal given. We are not ‘children of God’ in some general way, by virtue of having been created by Him. . . .We are only His sons when we have faith in the son.  It is through faith that God adopts us” (90).

“Many take offense at using the masculine ‘sons’ to refer to all Christians, male and female. Some would prefer to translate verse 26: ‘You are all children of God’ (as the NIV 2011 does). But if we are too quick to correct the biblical language, we miss the revolutionary (and radically egalitarian) nature of what Paul is saying. In most ancient cultures, daughters could not inherit property. Therefore, ‘son’ meant ‘legal heir,’ which was a status forbidden to women. But the gospel tells us we are all sons of God in Christ. We are all heirs. Similarly, the Bible describes all Christians together, including men, as the ‘bride of Christ’ (Rev. 21:2). God is evenhanded in His gender-specific metaphors. Men are part of His Son’s bride; and women are His sons, His heirs. If we don’t let Paul call Christian women ‘sons of God,’ we miss how radical and wonderful a claim this is” (90).

 

27 For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ.

Moo: “Paul is especially concerned to emphasize 1) that this sonship is universal, including especially Gentiles such as the Galatians; and 2) that this sonship is grounded in one’s relationship with Jesus Christ” (251).

“…water baptism, which Paul almost certainly has in view here, was the normal culminating event in a person’s coming to Christ. It was not, in and of itself, a means of salvation or incorporation into Christ. Faith, which Paul repeatedly highlights in this passage and in his other letters, is the only means of coming into relationship with Jesus Christ” (251)

Keller: Galatians 3:27 is a daring and comprehensive metaphor for a whole new life. It means to think of Christ constantly, to have His Spirit and His character infuse and permeate everything you think, say and do. This goes so far beyond the keeping of rules and regulations. This goes even beyond simple obedience. This is to be in love with Him, bathed in Him, awash in Him. A Christian can never need some additional commitment to the law of Moses to receive or maintain full acceptance with God. He or she is clothed with Christ” (91-92).

 

28 There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. 29 And if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to promise.

Eric’s Commentary: In God’s economy, we come to the cross on our own. It’s not based on our parents. It’s not based on our spouse. It’s not even based on how we grew up. Each person must determine who the Master in life will be. If you choose the true God, then you are an heir. It’s simple as that.

The NIV Study Bible: “Unity in Christ transcends ethnic, social and sexual distinctions. Christians are Abraham’s true spiritual descendants.”

Moo: “Because complete provision for their standing with God and within his people is provided in Christ, no other requirement, such as obedience to the law, can be added” (255).

“Those who have faith are ‘Abraham’s seed’ (3:7) because faith unites us with Christ, who is the ultimate ‘seed’ and ‘son’ of Abraham. ‘Being ‘in’ Christ enables them to be  ‘in’ Abraham (Hodge 2007:103)” (255)

Keller: “Paul picks up on the three barriers that usually divide people: 1. The cultural barrier: ‘neither Jew nor Greek.’ Cultural divisions are to have no part in the church of Christ. . . . Inside the church, we should associate with and love one another across racial and cultural barriers. 2. The class barrier: ‘neither…slave nor free.” Again, economic stratification should not extend into the church. … The poor or modestly paid worker must not be made to feel inferior in any way. On the other hand, the well-off must not be resented or shunned. 3. The gender barrier: ‘neither … male nor female.’ This was perhaps the strongest barrier of Paul’s day. Women were considered absolutely inferior to men. Even today, the application of this principal is the most explosive and controversial. But, in any case, it was clearly revolutionary” (93).

Martin Luther: “The list might be extended indefinitely: There is neither preacher nor hearer, neither teacher nor scholar, neither master nor servant, etc. In the matter of salvation, rank, learning, righteousness, influence count for nothing. With this statement Paul deals a death blow to the Law. When a person has put on Christ nothing else matters.”